Sonia Mainstone-Cotton is a children’s advocate and Iain Mainstone-Cotton is a sculptor
We have tried hard to put equality into practice in our marriage and family life and then also through the church community we are part of. In our marriage we intentionally started out with the agreed value base that we were equal to each other and that we wanted to enable one another to grow and develop in our callings. This has shown itself through practical ways from the beginning such as sharing all the cooking, housework and so on in the home.
When we had children, 16 years ago, we decided to share child care, and by the time our 2nd child arrived we each worked a three-day week. Now our children are older we still share the school holidays, school pick ups and other responsibilities that come with parenting. We are both really fortunate as we have very flexible jobs. I’ve been working for a children’s charity and Iain is self employed; this has helped us to be able juggle childcare etc between us.
We have very different interests and gifts and have tried hard over the years to support one another in these. Over the past eight years I did a degree and an MA while still working and being a Mum and a wife; this was only possible by Iain supporting me and at times taking up more of the load of the family and home. There have been other times when I have picked up more of the home responsibilities to enable Iain to pursue his art work and his career. Family life and spending time all together has been really important but also having the opportunities to pursue our own interests have been important too. We have both had chances over the years to travel independently, with work and friends.
I think we have passed on to our daughters a strong sense of the importance of equality between men and women. They have seen through our daily family life that men and women are equal. From when they were a young age we were really conscious about not following the usual stereotypes such as only giving them traditional girls toys. They both had cars, dolls, trains and more to play with. Our eldest daughter did really like dolls and our youngest loved pirates! But they both knew boys and girls could play with the same things. We also intentionally challenged stereotypes through the stories we read them, for example Princess Smartypants and Prince Cinders by Babette Cole, and Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.
As they have got older they have both read for themselves a wide range of feminist literature. They have grown into confident young women who both have quite strong views around equality; they are both quick to point out when something is unequal, although this has at times caused them to irritate teachers at school!. They were both really cross and upset about the ruling on Women Bishops, and asked why the church was still so sexist- a hard one to answer. As parents we have actively encouraged them to discuss, reflect think and read about issues; I think this has helped them to think through issues such as equality and to feel encouraged to have a view and know that their ideas are important.